The focus for the 2016 DATAD annual conference was to take stock of the achievements of DATAD over the years, to look at the challenges faced and to map out ways of upgrading the platform. Consequently, the theme for the year was “Institutional Repositories: Tools for knowledge creation & knowledge management”. DATAD is the Database of African Theses and Dissertation – a platform developed by the Association of African Universities to facilitate the visibility and accessibility of theses and dissertations from African universities.

The Conference

The 3-day conference hosted by the Lupane State University took place at the Holiday Inn hotel in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe from 24-26 August 2016. The 24 participants were from five African Countries namely Ghana, Namibia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. The conference was facilitated by the AAU in partnership with the Academy of Science of South Africa.

bulawayoOpening the conference, the Vice Chancellor of Lupane State University (Professor Pardon K. Kuipa) stressed the need to have communities of practice that will ensure that knowledge created is openly available for sharing. Prof Kuipa highlighted the challenges related to print publishing and these include copyright restrictions, policies established by a particular research community, embargoes that an institution might require to keep the institution in compliance with the terms of sponsor contracts and even monetary access fees for certain data. He stressed how Implementing these policy-based restrictions requires robust access and rights management mechanisms to allow or restrict access to content and, conceivably, to parts of digital objects by a variety of criteria, including user type, institutional affiliation, user community, and others. Prof Kuipa further pointed to the advantages that repositories will bring to the faculty for sharing and collaborations.

The expected outputs of the conference were to facilitate a review of the existing Open Access-Institutional Repository (OA-IR) platforms, discuss best practices and emerging trends in OA-IR implementation, showcase tools for tracking usage of IR for management and improvement. The need for copyright policies to be documented was also on the agenda.

The expected outcomes of the conference include the proper management of the existing OA-IR so that they more efficiently operate, while promoting and supporting the formation of new IRs. This way the DATAD platform would be harvesting from much efficient and reliable sources of information and displaying to the whole world the full text of the research works emanating from the African Institutions of Higher Education.

State of existing IRs

As part of the conference activities the participants were requested to evaluate their IRs against set standards. It was found out that most of the existing platforms that have been harvested and displayed on the DATAD platform had not strictly adhered to the standard for classifying and describing the content. These standards will form the checklist for an improved DATAD platform and will be used for evaluating new and existing IRs when they apply for inclusion into the DATAD platform. These criteria are listed below and will be discussed in a serial format as part of subsequent editions of the AAU newsletter.

The DATAD compatibility criteria includes:

  • Policy availability
  • Preservation practices
  • Governance and Sustainability
  • Accessibility and visibility
  • Security
  • Submissions
  • Customisation
  • Digitisation
  • Legal
  • Marketing / support
  • Usage and impact (Altmetrics)

Repositories will now be required to meet the above minimum criteria based on attainment of these standards. The institution would then apply for a review which would be carried out by external experts. Based on the recommendation then the Institutional Repository would be harvested by the DATAD platform and also attain the DATAD seal of approval. It was noted that this DATAD seal would not be a one off and permanent seal, but will be based on yearly reviews for compliance.

In addition to these criteria, other checks will include how trustworthy the data is, demonstration of responsible stewardship and direction of repositories, usability of the data, format of storage, persistency of the classification of data, whether there are persistent identifiers for the data and whether the repository is open access.

Conclusion

The participants were asked to apply the criteria and conduct reviews in collaboration with their repository management teams. These reviews are expected to result in the revamping of the institutional repositories of the universities that participated in the conference. The new DATAD platform will be launched in January 2017. But before then the first reviews will begin in November 2016 and those that qualify will immediately be harvested and displayed on the new platform. All existing repositories harvested by DATAD will be subjected to the same rigorous evaluation before their inclusion. The AAU through the DATAD platform will continue to support the creation and sharing of knowledge from the continent in partnership with Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf).